Sunday, December 18, 2011

VICTORY, DHAKA, SURRENDER, JACOB




During his tenure as the Governor of Punjab, Lt Gen JFR Jacob (retd) had the above photograph displayed prominently on a wall in his office. And once, when I went to interview him for a story, he took me close to it and asked me to observe the photograph closely.

When I could not find anything out of the ordinary, he pointed out the face of a lady who seemed to be struggling to break through the Admiral and the Air Marshal while the Instrument of Surrender was being signed by Lt Gen AAK Niazi in the presence of Lt Gen JS Aurora. "She's Mrs Aurora. She insisted on boarding the chopper and coming to Dhaka to witness the surrender," he told me with a grin.

And I looked carefully and, yes, indeed. Mrs Aurora wanted to be a part of history. Lt Gen Sagat Singh is looking at her and Lt Gen Aurora too seems to have noticed her presence and is looking towards his left shoulder. The Sikh officer behind Mrs Aurora seems to be very amused with her frantic efforts.

The fact that Lt Gen Jacob had a not-so-high opinion of his GOC-in-C, Lt Gen Aurora, is not a secret. And conversing with him brings this out. But Lt Gen Jacob never openly said anything inimical about his former Army Commander. It could come in hints, subtly but never explicitly. But his book, Surrender at Dacca, makes it very clear how he felt.

Lt Gen Jacob also did not share the adulation that many in the Army, and out of it, had for Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw. He accepted that Sam knew how to go about building his image and that he had a way of chatting up to the average officer and jawan, but he did not have much to say about his operational efficiency and capacity of higher direction of war.

This too came out in his book and more so during various conversations with him. Lt Gen Jacob stood by Sam when the latter was the Commandant of the Staff College and got into trouble after a Court of Inquiry was initiated against him. Jack Jacob insisted he refused to expose against him and thus saved his skin. But he was dismissive of the tale that Sam called Indira Gandhi "Sweetie" while refusing to carry out operations against Pakistan in the first half of 1971. "Can you imagine anyone calling Mrs G Sweetie," said an incredulous Jacob dismissing it as a tall story.

Lt Gen Jacob has steadily positioned himself as the main architect of the victory against Pakistan in Bangladesh theatre of operations. For the past several years, ever since his book came out, he has been repeating the fact that Dhaka was not the main objective and that it was he who managed the operations so well that India got it's victory.

For anyone familiar with military functioning, the role of Chief of Staff of a Corps or a Command, is well known. In operations the role may indeed be enhanced to a greater degree, but it still beats the imagination to think that the Army Chief by-passed his Army Commander while giving direct instructions to Chief of Staff Eastern Command, then Maj Gen Jacob, to do certain tasks.

However, there is one task which he certainly accomplished with great aplomb and that was obtaining the signature of Lt Gen Niazi on the Instrument of Surrender. Lt Gen Niazi was expecting negotiations of a ceasefire and not a surrender.

Here again, while recounting the story, Lt Gen Jacob could not help forget a unpleasant memory. Maj Gen GS Nagra, GOC of 101 Communication Zone had already entered Dhaka and was sitting with Lt Gen Niazi "cracking dirty jokes in Punjabi" when Jacob entered the room.

Nagra knew Niazi from the time when he had served as Military Attache to Pakistan when Karachi used to be the capital of that country. And both were old friends from the days of the IMA. He reached Dhaka using his old connections, a jeep and a white flag after the ceasefire. However, he was sent packing out of the room by Lt Gen Jacob.

And while Niazi complained that Jacob blackmailed him into surrender by threatening to let loose the Mukti Bahini on Pakistanis holed up in Dhaka, Jacob denied any such thing. Be that as it may, he certainly completed the required task and managed to line up Pakistan Army for a guard of honour at the surrender ceremony.

With almost all principal characters of the drama which unfolded in Command HQs, Eastern Command, in Calcutta, having passed away, with the exception of Lt Gen Jacob, there is no voice to the contrary on all that he claims. Sam Maneckshaw kept his silence, though Jacob's book came out when he was alive and that is that.

In the larger picture, this was the Indian Army's finest hour. Many performed their tasks beyond the call of duty, those in the field and those on staff. In wars and battles it is common place for commanders to get accolades for victories and many-a-staff officer has not got his dues. Maybe Lt Gen Jacob feels that he deserved greater recognition for his role and was denied what he should have got.
But as the French say, C'est la Vie.....That's Life.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully Written!!! Great Sirji

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